Tight Slaps from A Scarred Childhood by Dr. Swatee Miittal

“I will give You one tight slap !”

“Hey You! this Girl I tell You!!! Smiling shamelessly! I have never met such a shameless girl in my life! Why did you take her coloring book? You thief ! “

“That’s such a dumb question ! Did you leave your brain at home and come to school today ? Look, the entire class is laughing at you!”

“This girl is always lost, always daydreaming! And then scores zero in the tests! This is why your parents send you to school ? Simply wasting parents’ hard earned money !”

“And You ! Why are you walking so slow ??? You have become so fat that’s why you are becoming lazy ! Tell mummy not to make you eat so much food ! Now hurry up! I cannot wait for you in the corridors that day! Run run run! “

Growing up these were regular with me and my friends at school. We would often address each other by the names our teachers gave us, the ‘sleepyhead’, ‘the intelligent one’, ‘the class topper’, ‘the failure (imagine!)’, ‘the thief’ and so on…..

When I look back I feel like asking, could it have been handled any better ?

I am not saying that we should have been molly-codled like marshmallows, absolutely not.

But how would our childhoods be, had we been brought up amidst teachers who were well trained in basic aspects of understanding mental health conditions and their symptoms.

Like that kid ‘out on the swing’ is perhaps just suffering from social anxiety and feels much safer outside in the open than being bullied inside the class for her social awkwardness.Β 

The “shameless girl” probably fell in love with the classmates’ coloring book, perhaps something she knew she wouldn’t have the privilege of receiving at home coming from parents trying to make ends meet. Probably she could have been encouraged to invent her own coloring book, or perhaps inspired to turn into an entrepreneur selling lemonades in front of the school canteen until she can buy one of those coloring books for herself.Β 

That “dumb girl” might actually be the next Einstein who knows, with a little patience and understanding β€œ her way” of processing information and learning.

The “lost girl”, the one who’s always daydreaming ? Who knows her brain might have created “being lost in her own world” as a defense mechanism to “escape” some part of her life’s current reality she is unable to cope with ?

And that overweight kid walking slowly at the end of the class line, is perhaps not “lazy & fat”, but probably undergoing some kind of emotional trauma that left the kid feeling insecure & perhaps eating is just a way of finding emotional comfort, perhaps walking last is a way of avoiding being made ‘fun of’ by the rest of the class maybe a baby arrived in the family recently taking away the attention from this kid and leaving her feeling less wanted. Who knows just what the kids are struggling with ?

And so, the young minds carried on living “up to” their respective “tags” bestowed upon them by the “authorities” they so innocently trusted, probably trusted more than themselves.

Just cause they couldn’t demand them to look deeper beneath the surface, where the real healing was waiting to happen just by some understanding words, instead they carried the tags of being “lazy, shameless, indisciplined, rude, thief & dumb” most of their lives.

Until one day they signed up for some kind of therapy or courses, that other people felt was a complete waste of their money, after all, this is how life is, you continue silently with the deep internal wounds and scars and pretend as if nothing has ever happened.

PS: The intention of writing this note is not to blame our teachers for anything, I fully understand that at that time each one did the best they could (afterall they are also human beings, and we cannot imagine their share of pressures). In Fact some teachers with their kindness, empathy and encouragement played life changing roles in my life, I shall forever be indebted to them.

But what I would like us to reflect upon is the “impact” that is felt by kids that can last a lifetime just because we do not prefer to address and “acknowledge” mental health issues as well as the world of neuro-divergents.

Isn’t it time to make some progress, perhaps reduce the process of scarring passed on by generations ?